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Understanding Chord Symbols? FREE LESSON
Published: 2013-12-26 Updated: 2015-03-30 00:00:00 • 1709

Understanding Chord Symbols?

by Curt Sheller, Curt Sheller Publications

A chord's name is comprised of it's letter name, either A, B, C, D, E, F, or G and its chord type information symbol which encapsulates the instructions for building a chord.

  • The capital letter A, B, C, D, E, F or G is the Root or letter name of the chord.
  • The chord desgination follows based on its basic triad type: major, minor, diminished or augmented. A major desgination is not required for triads as this is the default chord type and the most common chord. 4-part chords require a 7th (seventh) designation or the highest upper partial or extension ( 9, 11, 13 ) above the seventh. maj7, m7, °7, +7, maj9, m9, 11, 15, etc...
  • Followed by any alterations ( b5, #b, b9, #9, #11, b13 ) or added pitches. These can be in parentheses 9(#5) 13(b5), ...

Major

Major is the most common chord and by default the maj or major part of the chord is rarely written or even pronounced.

Common symbols: M, MAJ, maj, Δ

C, CM, Cmaj, CMAJ, CΔ

The capital “M” should be avoided. Especially in its handwritten form as it is hard to distingish between an uppercase and the lowerscase ”m” for a minor chord.

Minor

Common symbols: m, min, -

Cm, C-

Diminished

Common symbols: dim, °

Cdim, C°

Augmented

Common symbols: aug, +

Caug, C+

Seventh

A seventh chord sometimes called a Dominant Seventh chord.

Common symbols: 7

C7

add

add refers to adding a note to the base chord. The add is typically used with major and minor chords and represented as a number referring to the interval of the note from the chord’s corresponding scale to add to the chord.

Cadd9

sus

sus implies the suspension of the third of a major, minor or seventh chord.

Csus4, C7sus4

End of Lesson

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